15 Dec Solutions Focused Coaching in Schools – a new online course for 2021
The need to find solutions to the complex problems children face has never been more urgent. We’re in a time of high stress, constant change and stretched resources. The same holds true for the school staff who are working hard to keep students on track for learning, safely and productively.
Usually we can hold most children securely in school, we teach them the rules and defend the boundaries, rewarding when they get it right and punishing when they get it wrong. But in every school there are those children who don’t respond in the way we want them to. For them, the standard routine is to escalate the consequences of their behaviour until they do comply. If they still don’t and the ‘behaviour points’ keep piling up, what then?
It’s a crisis that demands an urgent response.
My answer is Solutions Focused Coaching, tried and tested over twenty years of working with children who struggle in school.
My new SFCiS online course, blending online learning with live supervision, supported by practical workbook, opens up new opportunities for children, young people and their educators.
SFCiS – A story of success
In 2001 I met boy in his mainstream primary school who at imminent risk of exclusion. I was working as a Local Authority Specialist Behaviour Support Teacher, tasked with preventing exclusions, called in as a last hope when all else had failed.
This boy’s persistent rough behaviour with other children had led to his removal from playtimes. His Children’s Services file showed that he’d witnessed a violent event when he was six, had been referred for trauma support to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS), but it never happened. At nine he was in trouble with the police. In school he seemed unable to play safely with other children, too many fights, causing physical hurt. His school had worked through their resources of assessment, support, consequences and short-term exclusions and now it was either the ‘last resort’ of permanent exclusion or … whatever I could think of doing.
I didn’t have the luxury of time to work through his complex history, because things were at crisis point. One more breakdown of behaviour and we’d both have failed.
We needed something simple, fail-safe, fast and effective. At the time I was researching school provision for my PhD and I’d met Solutions Focused Coaching (SFC) on a Continuing Professional Development day. I’d learned that SFC looked for strengths and successes in a child, it built relationship and was safe because it didn’t involve raising a past trauma. It had a simple, learnable structure and was already proving effective internationally in many situations wherever people were struggling. I met this boy and his mum in school. I had my notebook with the basic SFC framework written in the margin. I started on a journey that I’m still on today. In 2006 I completed my PhD. In 2016 I published my book, in 2018 I piloted an online course in Australia and the UK. I’m taking another step forward now with the launch of my new online course for 2021.
SFC in action
In session one this boy told me about his best hope, our work project, to ‘behave’. He told me about his best thing, football, very energised and smiley. We talked about the strengths and resources that he brought to his game. I asked him to scale his best hope and look out for changes on the scale. I asked him to look out for things going well over the coming week. Within a few days the hurting of others in school stopped, he was back out on the playground, safely doing what he loved best, playing football. By session five the threat of exclusion had gone and he agreed that we’d completed out work together. I hadn’t tried to unpick his hurting behaviour and we didn’t talk about trauma in his life. We’d just chatted about what was going well, his resources, successes and hopes and we’d noticed the changes.
If I was unsure of this approach at the start, I was convinced by the end that here was something real. From my first SFC session with this boy in 2001 to meeting with children in primary and secondary schools in these last weeks of 2020, this way of working had not let us down.
What does SF Coaching mean in the school context?
It means providing a second track to the standard Behaviour Management pathway which relies on rewards and punishments and terminates in exclusion when it goes too far. SF Coaching foregrounds the strengths and resources of the child, focusing on their need for support that drives their behaviour, seeing them as an active, reflective learner, changing behaviour from the inside.
What is it about SF Coaching that makes it so well suited to meet the needs of young people, their families and school staff?
- It works in combination with existing school classroom and corridor behaviour management systems, maintaining the rules and reminders necessary for the school community to function fairly and smoothly by providing strong support for children who need more. SFC broadens and deepens in-school capacity to respond to young people’s needs, expressed through their behaviour. It enables them benefit from the whole-school, consistent behaviour management strategy already present in schools, resulting in greater engagement and achievement.
- Children and young people with higher level needs are moved off the consequences pathway at the appropriate point, onto the SF Coaching road to success. This means being proactively included rather than reactively separated and even excluded. SFC has an excellent track record of preventing exclusion.
- SFC in Schools focuses on the child as a person rather than being directed by diagnosis or labels. It foregrounds their resources, strengths and successes and their hopes for the future. Because of this shift in focus it doesn’t demand that school staff become mental health experts digging into complex problems. Instead, it’s an educational response, a conversational inquiry into solutions based on a balanced relationship.
- SFC meets the needs of school and students by providing a practical, effective alternative approach to ongoing stepped sanctions. The outcome of SFC is re-engagement with school life and expectations and secure, safe and healthy inclusion in school.
Covid19 and early intervention; understanding the impact, preparing for recovery 1
The 2020 Early Intervention fund report (see below) supports the case for Early Help being in place to prevent statutory services being overwhelmed, by helping to meet the complex and unpredictable needs of families and children, both short- and long-term. SFCiS can help you to meet this need as we enter the New Year – you can find my brochure below …..
1 https://www.eif.org.uk/blog/putting-early-intervention-at-the-heart-of-the-covid-19-recovery for the short article – retrieved 09/07/2020 https://www.eif.org.uk/report/covid-19-and-early-intervention-understanding-the-impact-preparing-for-recovery for the full report – retrieved 09/07/2020